Jackie Lambie calls for voters’ views on confiscating asylum seekers’ phones
With the Senate expected to vote on legislation that would empower Border Force to take asylum seekers’ mobile phones away, Jackie Lambie will have an important casting vote. The Senator for Tasmania has asked her constituents to tell her how to vote on the Bill.
The Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020 has already passed the House of Representatives. This legislation would empower Border Force agents to confiscate detainees’ mobile phones, a move that has been condemned by refugee advocates, the Law Council of Australia, and the federal Opposition.
Due to the Senate’s sizable crossbench, the Upper House vote is expected to be close, with Tasmania’s Jackie Lambie casting an important vote.
Writing on Facebook, Ms Lambie has defended her recent decision to outsource the decision to voters, via a poll on her official website.
“People always say the Senate’s full of unrepresentative swill,” she wrote.
“I’m trying to use the balance of power to be as representative as I possibly can be. I’m handing the power of the crossbench to the people who put me there. I reckon there’s nothing more democratic or representative than that.”
“It’s super simple, you get a chance to explain your thinking there, and it means I can tally up the yes and no votes without asking my poor staff to start counting up all the comments on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
Senator Lambie has said that the poll requires voters to register their addresses and contact information, so as to ensure that people do not vote multiple times.
Labor MP Peter Khalil has accused the government of a “pathetic dog whistle”, telling parliament that refugees’ phones are, “a lifeline in detention”.
“There is no justification for this bill and its sweeping powers and it is also a bill that has clearly impinged upon the human rights of detainees,” Mr Khalil said.
Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge has argued that Border Force does not have the power to confiscate phones and that granting them this power will not mean all asylum seekers lose access.
Mr Tudge said the bill would instead confer, “strengthened powers” to seize items that put detention staff and detainees at risk.
The current poll results have not been made publicly available, with Senator Lambie saying that she will provide an update on these and her intentions.
Asylum seekers in detention use mobile phones for a number of important tasks. Former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani used his phone to write his award-winning book No Friend But the Mountains.
Senator Lambie previously voted with the Morrison Liberal Government to overturn the Medivac Bill.
To share your opinion on how Jackie Lambie should vote, visit her official website here.